Ok, so the lake Murvall GTG was postponed due to high winds, and I had two problems: 1) I had set up a meeting with my daughter (Rachel) and her boyfriend (Travis), and 2) Momma had a shopping trip planned. So, as any resourceful person would do, I started thinking about an alternate fishing location. After looking at my options, and recent TFF comments, I settled on Caddo Lake. Never been there, shallow lake, Big gators, near where I grew up, so what could go wrong, I questioned.
Well, after trying to potlick some information from the locals, specifically, CrappieXpress and TroyKing and a couple others who shall remain nameless, I called up Johnsonís Marina (Fish Camp.). It the oldest fish camp in Texas!
Actually, TroyKing called and told me to contact them, cause they were holding a cabin open for me. So I called and the girl that answered, Sharolyn, instantly recognized my name (I said Crapicat) and she replied Mr. Freeman. So after we laughed a minute and exchanged pleasantries, she took my CC information and I was setup. Then she got a real serious look on her face and said, you know there is a cold front coming in and the fish just donít bite on this lake during cold fronts, right? Oh well, I replied, I have already been told not to expect to catch any fish the first few times on caddo anyway, so no big deal. Dang it, I thought, just my luck. Then I got busy gathering my fishing equipment and prepping the boat trailer for the trip, and tried to forget her warning.
Sleep came fitfully, for the next few nights, partly due to the anticipation of getting to finally fish Caddo, the only natural lake in the state of Texas, and partly due to the canít catch fish during a cold front on Caddo comment. Rachel and I texted frequently about the upcoming trip, including the fatherly advice to bring warm clothes, due to the looming cold front. Finally, the big Day arrived and it was time to hook up the boat and leave, which I did about three times. Kept forgetting Items, the first time it was my pillow (laugh all you want), then it was my new Waterproof jig boxes, then it was my anchors (again feel free to laugh). Just as I had seriously re-walked throughout the house and the garage to see if I had loaded everything one last time, here comes the delivery truck down the driveway, so I backed out of his way. He said, going fishing? Since he is a friendly guy, I quashed my smart arse, Bill Engvall impersonation, and said Yes, just heading out. Got a package for you today, probably fishing stuff (itís always fishing stuff if my name is on the box) and he knows it. Oh yea, my Super Secret Crappie Jigs, I exhorted! Well get that box open and letís see he quipped. Sure enough, I opened the box and started pulling out Jigs. WOW, I like those, got any to spare? Sure, pick some, I got plenty. So he got some, thanked me, and headed off on his next delivery. And I headed towards Uncertain, Texas.
The drive was almost uneventful. I do remember looking down at my fuel gauge upon hearing the dinging of the low fuel warning light/buzzer. Frantically, I start checking the phone for the next filling station (no help there) and as I look up all I see are pine trees and no towns anywhere close. Then the panic slowly turns to dread, as I realize I may not make it to a station in time. Suddenly, about 15 minutes later, in the middle of nowhere, a gas station sign appears! As stop at the pump, I wipe the sweat from my brow, and say a short prayer. My next rememberance, was pulling into the Johnsonís Marina, the oldest fish camp in the state of Texas. Accordingly, I heard the dueling banjos music from the movie deliverance playing on the radio. Talk about timing, I thought.
Instantly, I was transformed back into the days when nomadic Indians roamed the lake, as I looked around I noticed Spanish moss was hanging from the trees, and there was a fog on the water, with dark foreboding clouds from the approaching cold front moving like a wave across the sky. Silently, I sat there for a few minutes struck by the awe of the moment, then a voice beckoned...you gonna sit in the truck all day or git out and come on in? Hi, my name is John, Iím the dockmaster, he said as he stuck his hand out and looked me over. I must have been quite a sight to him, dressed in cargo shorts, a new fishing shirt, and crocks, without socks. Iím Dale, some folks call me Crapicat. Oh, your that guy we have been waiting on to check in, he said, Sharolyn is just inside to get you checked in.
Once I got checked in, I walked back outside on the dock, where the days fishing and cleaning stories were being told, bantered, and generally discussed in a dull roar, by a dozen or so folks. John walked up and said we are about to close, if you need minners, better get them now, cause we donít open till 8am in the morning. Thatís ok, I responded, I am a jig fisherman! A jig fisherman, he exclaimed, you ainít gonna catch no fish on this lake with Jigs, he replied. Suddenly, everyone was quiet and checking me out from head to toe and back again. Eerily silent, I mused. Well, good luck and that trailer over there is your cabin. After getting my truck unloaded, I popped a top and stood in the doorway. As I stood there, I heard in a very loud voice, ďa JIG FISHERMAN he said, can you believe that? Then another voice said, he must be a YANKEE, did you see the way he was dressed? NOPE, he grew up around here, I heard Sharolyn say after she checked him in. Well, heíll get skunked for sure, if he does t get any minners, thatís for shore! Evidently, I made quite an impression, I muse. Hmm, I better get something to eat.
The next morning I woke to the sounds of trucks/boats lined up, with people talking, hollering instructions, etc., as they are trying to launch. Well about time to get the coffee going, I see. About 9am, I strolled over to the marina, to visit. Change your mind and decide to buy some minnows, Sharolyn said with a smile, as she was freshening my coffee. Nah, just thought I would check the store out, look at the old photos and such. Most of them got ruined in the flood a few years back she responded. After she told me some stories behind the pictures, John came in and asked if I wanted some breakfast with yard eggs. Heck yes, came my immediate reply.
Soon thereafter, the owner Billy Carter came in, got up to speed on the happenings of the day, and looked my way. You that jig fishing fella, he asked. Yep, may have to buy some minnows later on, as I hear you canít catch fish on Caddo, without minnows, I responded. Just then a bearded man, slight build walked in the door and ordered a pound of minnows, grabbed some weights off the wall, paid and started out the door. This here is a guide that lives down the way, said Billy Carter. The guide nodded and looked at me, so you must be that jig fisherman, I been hearing about. I just smiled and nodded. Obviously, by this time, doubt was creeping into my mind. Billy, I tell you what, you give me a hole to start and if I canít catch a fish with my Jigs, I will come back in here and buy some minnows, I said in my best official pot-licking voice, as I walked over to the wall and grabbed some weights. Billy, the businessman, Carter, pointed across the way...see that pole? Go tie off on it, if you ainít caught anything in 30 minutes, I expect to see you back in here. Done!
Just then, I got the dreaded response that Rachel and Travis would be delayed until dinner. So, I started loading up my boat, and preparing to launch, when John asked you need me to launch you? Sure, thanks, I replied. Donít forget, there is no minimum size limit on crappie, and I will clean up to a limit for $10. Good deal, I thought, I wouldnít even pull out my electric knife for ten bucks. Upon launch, i headed straight to the pole and tied up. My first drop was a 1/16 plastic jig that never got past a foot deep before it was behind the boat. Second drop was a 1/8 That didnít do much better. Third drop was a 1/4 That never made it to the bottom. Fourth drop was a 3/4 bell with two 1/32 super secret crappie Jigs and bam a double! Next drop yielded a keeper crappie. Several fish later, I untied and started searching for fish while I held a couple fish up trolling by the docks. And it was on...a few hours later, I heard my daughter yelling my name at the marina, so I fired up the motor and headed back to the marina. She and Travis had met everyone on the docks and were busy yakking it up. Do any good she asked? Yep, think I got a dozen keepers, I replied. You gonna clean fish or visit, John asked. I am gonna visit, if you have time to clean them, I responded. You got 13 fish, John shouted loud enough for everyone in Uncertain, Texas to hear. Why didnít you keep the little ones, he asked, just as loud, I clean them too. And I want to see them Jigs you used, too. Upon producing one, he said why that thing isnít as big as a firefly! Seriously, what Jigs did you use, he asked as he turned to go clean fish. I just smiled and didnít answer.
The next morning, I just couldnít rouse the kids much before noon, as we visited well into the wee hours of the morning, the night before. So after we visited for a while, had brunch, I was dutifully informed Travis needed to get back to College Station, obstensively, to study. After seeing them off, it was time to fish again, with much better results, as I was using two poles instead of just one, and because I had dialed in the color selection of the super secret crappie Jigs, the day before. On day three, I went out for an hour to sightsee a bit, saw a spot and caught a few nice crappie. After John pulled the truck from the water, and took a picture for posterity, he asked if he could have a couple of the Jigs I was using, in case he wanted to give it a try. I handed him the case and told him to help himself...he looked at my pole, and got one of each color. He then looked up, and in a serious voice, said, I got to hand it to you, you said you were a jig fisherman and you really are! I just smiled and said thank you John, I appreciate the kind words. Good thing the weather was bad, or I would have never made the trip, I mused.